How to Deal With a Controlling Spouse

by Melody Causewell

Relationships can be difficult, but they are especially challenging when dealing with a controlling spouse. By talking to your partner, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and considering your options, you can deal with these behaviors.

Talk to Your Spouse

If you feel you are being controlled, speaking to your partner may help. In some cases, partners are repeating behaviors they saw growing up and are unaware of the effect these behaviors have on a spouse. If she says, “I don’t want you to go out, because I said so,” you have every right to ask questions. Be as open, honest and calm as you can during these discussions. By asking why the behaviors are occurring, you may uncover insecurities about the relationship that are leading to the behaviors out of fear of losing you. If she is willing, seek professional assistance to work through the controlling behaviors and build a healthier relationship.

Set Boundaries

You have a right to be treated with respect and kindness. If you feel controlled, you also have the right to put your foot down and let your partner know this is not okay. For example, tell him that you will be changing your computer passwords because you have a right to privacy. Offer consequences for continuing the behaviors, such as, “I feel disrespected and controlled when you tell me I cannot see my friends. I will be going anyway. If you continue these behaviors, I will stay there for the night until you have calmed down.” By being clear about your intentions and setting boundaries, you will show your partner that controlling behaviors will not be tolerated.

Take Care of Yourself

Women are more likely to have persistent depression when they have controlling partners, notes one study led by Margaret H. Blabey published in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" in 2009. But this goes both ways, as men and women who feel controlled or are in unhappy relationships tend to have lower moods. If you feel down, feel bad about yourself or are generally unhappy, find additional outlets to increase pleasure, such as spending time with friends or finding a hobby that makes you feel good about yourself. Seek professional assistance for more persistent mental heath issues such as depression or low self worth.

Consider Your Options

Partners who show controlling behaviors are more likely to use physical violence or sexual violence, according to research by Diddy Antai published in 2011 in "BMC Public Health." Even if things have not escalated to this point, you do have options if you are unhappy. Seek professional assistance including legal advice to work through your options if the control is beyond the point of repairing the relationship, or if your spouse shows no intention of changing. If you are being physically abused or are afraid violence may occur, seek assistance at a local shelter, from a friend or through family. And if things do get heated or violent, contact authorities to ensure you remain safe.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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